A Brief History of Messiah Lutheran Church
The history of Messiah Lutheran Church goes back thousands of years — back to Jesus Christ who was himself the fulfillment of a still older story that started when God promised to bless the world through an offspring of Abraham and to remove, the sin and death that plague this fallen world. That history has already been written (see the Bible).
But the beginning of this particular community of disciples gets its start in 1942 when Rev. Lawrence Rudolph began canvassing our area in hopes of beginning a mission-plant. Within weeks a congregation of 35 people gathered for worship at a storefront chapel at 111 East.3rd st. at this time Downey’s Population was approximately 1,400 people!
As the word of God was preached and taught and members took an active role in canvassing the neighborhood and doing personal evangelism, the congregation began to grow. In November of 1945, we purchased the property that is noW the campus of Messiah Lutheran Church’for $3500. The property had previous been part of an extensive orange grove, Now this same plot of land would be the site of a different sort of fruit-bearing, just as Jesus’ first disciples became new’kinds of fishermen.
The next few years saw a flurry of activity. In 1945, women of Messiah became charter members of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League — beginning a long tradition Of excellence that continues to this day under the auspices’ of Beth Hauser. In 1946 Pastor Rudolph resigned his call and less than, a year later Pastor John Hohengarten accepted a call to serve us. At long last, on January 12, 1947 at 3:00 PM,’ ground was broken for our first church building.
The years after World War II saw a tremendous growth of population in Downey and in membership at Messiah. By-1953, two hundred people were attending Sunday School and all squeezed into the sanctuary! How’s that for dedication and hunger for God’s Word? It wasn’t until September of 1954 that we were able.to complete a Sunday School addition to accommodate everyone.
In 1966, Pastor Hohengarten was given a peaceful release from his call in order to become Chaplain at Rancho Los Amigos and Long Beach General Hospital. Rev. C. Roger Meyer answered the call to serve as pastor at Messiah. Bill Lidtke, who is still a member at Messiah and just celebrated his 90th birthday, was chairperson of the congregation that year. Pastor Meyer served for a year and a half before being granted a peaceful release to continue his studies toward becoming a teacher. It was a quick transition. Less than a month after pastor Meyer’s last sermon, Rev. Al Young left his teaching position at Valparaiso University and came to begin a long and fruitful ministry at Messiah Lutheran Church. Pastor Rudolph, our founding pastor, gave the sermon at Messiah’s 25th Anniversary that year.
After five years of service, Pastor Young oversaw a much needed remodel of our facilities and the addition of our current office wing, which were rededicated in October,1973. Downey’s population had now grown to 88,882 people. Fields were ripe for harvest Efforts at evangelism, Christian education, youth work (through the now long-established Walter League) and other important aspects of Christian In 1979, Pastor Tom Windsor took the call to Messiah and served until 1984. It was during his years of service that our current leaded glass windows in the sanctuary were designed (by pastor) and installed. Pastor Windsor was also responsible for getting us our Lutheran Worship hymnal (the blue one) which served our purposes for 23 year until 2011 when organist Kyle Black lead the congregation to purchase the new Lutheran Service Book we used today.
In 1985 Pastor Norm Stoppenhagen took up the mantle and led Messiah through the next twenty-one years of evangelism, worship, Bible study,fellowship and Christian care. During this time, we recognized a growing demographic of Spanish-speaking people in our midst and, in faithfulness to our lord’s call to “make diciples of all nations,” began offering worship and ministries in Spanish in 1995. While we were not able to sustainthis first effort through to the present, it did last a number of years, bore fruit, and set a precedent for the future: We will take every opportunity to speach and teach the gospel to whoever God sends our way! (with two bilingual men of our congregation currently in training for synodical certification of deacons, we thank God for continuing to equip us for the same spirit of mission.) Fianlly, in 2015 the sanctuary received a major overhaul, bringing it largely to its current state. Pastor Stoppenhagen retired in 2006, but still visits us fromtime to time and still receives a Messiah Messenger to keep tabs on his friends and family in Chist here at Messiah.
Pastor Michael Hayesaccepted a call to serve as Messiah’s pastor in 2007. He served faithfully for three years, during which time he founded a home for Messiah’s pastor in 2007. He served faithfully for three years, during which time he founded a home for Messiah on the web and enhanced our contemporary service by bringing in james cornad as music leader who went on to seminary for pastoral training. Pastor’s wife , Rachel, is responsible for the wonderful mural in the nursery.
The Interim after pastor Michael took a call to serve his home congregation in Orange was very short. In Sepetember of 2010, Messiah ordained and installed Pastor John Genter and welcomed his wife Teddie with open arms. Around the same time Richard Schmieg joined us as the contemporary service musician. He was later installed asYouth Leader at the beginning of 2013. During this most recent period we added hygine help to our social servoce ministries, Bible studies and fellowship opportunities. Finally we said a sad farewell to our very dedicated and gifted organist, Kyle Black in August of 2012 as he went off to Indiana for more schooling, but we have been very happy to have our phenomenally talented new organists, Angela ana Aletheis Teague, serving here among us.
And who knows what the future holds? God alone. But we are willing and eager to be a part of it and pray that God would richly bless our life and work togather in the Lord. In keeping with its history and tradition, may this little plot of land on which we gather continue to be a place where abundant fruit – pleasing to God ripens and grows to His glory!